Tried and True Graduation Tips

Graduation

Forty-five years ago last month, my fellow graduates and I were walking together across the football field, new diplomas proudly clutched in our hands and tears filling our eyes. We were turning the page to a bold new chapter, although I’m sure that more than a few had absolutely no idea what that chapter was going to be. While the high school curriculum had been replete with Home Ec, Typing, and Metal Shop classes – along with Math, Science and Language – I can’t think of a single one that actually spoke to the “life” skills we would need upon leaving the nest. Nor, for that matter, were my classmates’ parentals providing useful instruction. In my own case, my parents expected me to stay in their well feathered nest until such time as I would marry someone of their choosing and, subsequently, hire others to pay the bills, shop for groceries and manage a household. When instead I defied them by getting my first job at 19 and moving into a studio apartment downtown, I would likely not have survived more than a month of my new-found independence if I hadn’t been shown Life’s ropes (including how to balance a checkbook!) by a bevy of helpful neighbor ladies that were keen to have a “project.”

If I were a student today and on the precipice of graduating from high school or college, my mentor would be Terry Matthews-Lombardo, author of Tried and True Graduation Tips. At 50 pages, it’s a bite-sized read that even your most multi-tasking and short-attention-span offspring can (and should) make time for. Just be sure to buy two copies – one for them to vigorously mark up, yellow-highlight and dog-ear its corners and the spare to give to their kids.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Your new book, Tried and True Graduation Tips, is a must-have guide for students on the threshold of leaving the classroom and learning to navigate the workaday world. Turning back the clock, what were the thoughts, dreams and fears going through your head on your own graduation day?

A:  I have this great photo of myself and a group of my best gal-pals at our graduation and we were all smiley and giggly with our gowns flowing in the wind.  Every time I look at it I’m reminded of how care-free and exciting that day was for us – mostly because we just felt like the world was awaiting our greatness!  But also because, as I recall, we were fearless back then, perhaps more naïve than today’s grads, and certainly more clueless!

Q: At what age did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?

A:  I was fortunate to grow up in a family that did a good deal of traveling so at an early age that opened my eyes to the magic of learning about areas beyond my small hometown.  The more places I visited the more I wanted to learn about other destinations, so a career in some part of that big wide industry was in the cards for me from the start.  I was particularly fascinated by hotels, thus my choice for that major in college.

Q: Who or what had the greatest influence on those aspirations and choices?

A:  My mother introduced me to reading James Michener, most of whose books are an incredible travel narrative that served to pique my curiosity about all those places he wrote about.  And my father gave me the gift of opening my eyes to the world of travel so it was definitely a family affair.

Q: If you could write a letter to your younger self in high school, what would you say?

A:  Dear Terry:  If you work hard and play nice through it all, it will be alright in the end, so don’t try to predict the future.  Que sera, sera!

Q: Are public and private schools today doing as much as they could/should in terms of offering curriculum in career development?

A:  I truly believe they are missing the mark on basic training in Life Management 101.  I even mention that in Chapter One of this book!  Like it or not, you get enrolled in LM101 the minute you graduate, and most kids are not at all prepared for the basics like managing a budget, understanding the importance of insurance, asking plenty of questions when they don’t understand something, and even time management.  Signing up and moving into that first job and/or apartment can be a sobering experience

Q: If you were in charge of that curriculum, what would you do differently?

A:  I would definitely include a math class that explains basic finance in terms of matching your expenses against your income, understanding the whole banking process and investment systems, the importance of retirement planning (that seems so distant and useless until it isn’t!), and so much more.  Teaching math only in terms of algebra and geometry is useless on so many levels unless, of course, all your students are going to be engineers and physicians.  But if you’re heading toward a non-technical professional career, you need real life vision regarding money.  I do remember taking economics but the professor was so out of touch and it was all just so boring when it could have been presented in a relevant and meaningful way, applicable to life management.

Q: To what do you attribute your expertise in this area?

A:  I have over 35 years of progressively successful professional career experience that includes working for some of the biggest names in corporate America (such as both Walt Disney World and Universal Studios) as well as working for a small startup and an international association. You learn from and grow with each and every job; and all of those lead to my present position as an independent business consultant, writer and speaker.  I consider every job I’ve ever held as being part of that training ground, and at some point you look at that body of knowledge and say, “Hey, I really do know what I’m doing here!  Time to share some of that knowledge!”

Q: What was your biggest goal in writing this book?

A:  To provide some concrete business advice to kids that need it during a vulnerable time in their lives, aka graduation.  No matter what field of work they are going into, job interviews will be needed, people skills will be tested, and as I say in the book’s dedication, “You haven’t finished learning yet.  The life before you is one open book, so keep reading!”

Q: So what’s your response to those who might say, “My kid just graduated from college. Why would I need to buy another book on this subject?

A:  Because this book has some valuable tips and proven counsel for job interviewing, personal financial management, and making that transition from college life into real world living.  And no matter how much [parents] have spent on that diploma, for the most part the graduates are not learning these basics in those expensive classes.  Plus, this one is cheap and actually useful J

Q: I’m pleased to see that you’ve included information on manners, something that seems to be woefully lacking in today’s younger generation. Is it too late to counteract the combined effects of entitlement (gimme gimme gimme), parental indifference to etiquette rules, and the insularity/anonymity fostered by technology?

A: No, I don’t believe it’s ever too late to encourage civility in one’s training!  It does go against the grain of “I don’t need to really talk or communicate with people because I work on a computer all day”, but in the end we all know that every job requires some level of human interaction as does day to day survival.  At some point you’ll have a conversation with your landlord.  One day you’ll need to buy a car or house.  Shoot, even basic things like a trip to the grocery store normally results in human interaction.  There’s a new marketing campaign out right now that encourages “dark for dinner” indicating families should all put their cell phones and PDAs aside during one meal each day and, wow, just have a conversation!  Brilliant, isn’t it? How great would it be if more kids were brought up with this kind of engagement instead of being glued to their computer screens all day long?  There’s such a lack of basic interpersonal communication skills out there right now and it’s great to see this national campaign promoting old fashioned family chatter at the table.

Q: What was your inspiration for those “Author’s Additional Five Cents Worth” tips at the end of the book?

A: I’ve raised two successful kids (yes, beaming with pride) and I gave them both the list of “Ten Things I Wish My Parents Had Told Me When I Was Your Age” which is what I share at the book’s end.  I made it very personal and I think every parent should do the same to help their kids feel empowered to ask questions and understand that just because you have a diploma doesn’t mean you have all the answers.

Q: What’s the best graduation present a parent, relative or mentor can give?

A:  Good and sage advice – maybe via Tried and True Graduation Tips? (shameless self-promotion!) But seriously, I do include some great gift ideas in Chapter Three, one of which is a decent interview suit.  For the most part, the college wardrobe is seldom considered professional, so basic pieces – not fashion statements – are what college grads need right away.

Q: What did you give your own offspring for graduation?

A:  My son did get a new suit from us (of course, he picked it out), and my daughter got a new set of luggage because she had already worn out her old stuff and would be doing some business traveling in her new job. (Also, as a fashion major, she already owned a few good suits and presentable interview attire.)

Q: Assuming that college was affordable for everyone, is a university education the best fit for every high school graduate?

A:  I don’t think it’s ‘the’ one size fits all answer anymore.  There are so many great technical institutes and boutique training options out there specializing in all kinds of unique career paths that I really think if you do your homework (no pun intended) you can find something that’s affordable and makes sense to get you started on your career path. You hear the term niche or target marketing a lot these days and that applies to higher education opportunities as well.

Q: Breaking into the competitive job market starts with having well polished interview skills. What are some of the top interview tips you’ve included in the book?

A:  A good self-introduction and a solid handshake are a must, and mastering both usually give you a boost of confidence that will carry through during the entire interview process.  Simple but very meaningful and highly effective tools.

Q: Like many authors, you opted for the self-publishing route. What governed this decision and what were the easiest/hardest aspects of donning the DIY hat of author, editor, publisher and marketer?

A: I self published via Amazon/Create Space mostly for two reasons: 1] I knew this was a very short and simple book, and 2] I wanted to test the waters for any future publishing that I do.  I currently have several other books in the works (don’t all authors?) and starting out with a short one to test the waters was the path I chose.  It’s been an incredible learning experience and true to the advice I kept reading about from other authors, the biggest challenge is doing your own marketing, especially when it’s a non-fiction book.  As you’re writing you might think that the formatting, uploads/downloads, cover art and all those elements are the biggest obstacles but then one day you get past all that and have an actual product at which time you turn inward and say, “Whew – I did it!”  When in reality, all you did was print a book.  I read some sage advice somewhere that basically said an author’s journey is only half done when the book is finished.  The next half of the journey is to get someone to read it.  So true!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Writing is my encore career, and therefore I’m still gainfully employed as a professional meeting planner.  But this also allows me to continue traveling, attending conferences, and giving me oh-so-much-more to write about!  I’m also constantly getting magazine articles published along with always pitching more ideas.  I feel it’s all part of (the necessity of) building your base as a writer, so everything I do now has that for a goal.

Q: Where can readers learn more about your work (and, of course, buy your book!)?

A:  I maintain a writer’s website at www.tmlwrites.com and keep a blog going there with interesting posts about my travel and lifestyle stories.  I also have a professional blog called the Hospitality Hive which is published via the Orlando Sentinel/Hype Orlando, and in this one I cover all kinds of topics related to the Central Florida Hospitality scene.  That link is http://www.hypeorlando.com/hospitality-hive/ I always tell subscribers to not to worry about me clogging their inbox as I only post a couple times per month on each blog site.  Personally I get really turned off when I subscribe to something and then get bombarded in the inbox with constant posts, so I struggle with what the right amount is to keep people interested.  Plus, I feel if you put out quality instead of quantity the readers will appreciate you more.  As for Tried and True Graduation Tips, it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and ereader format.  There is a direct link to it on my website, and also at Tried and True Graduation Tips: WHAT WE KNOW FOR SURE ABOUT GRADUATION AND BEYOND

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I love this quote from Mark Twain about becoming a writer:  “Writing is easy.  All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” This is so true, and a reminder to me that every word I put on that keyboard counts!  I try to write with purpose whether it’s to inform, entertain, or more often both because I think life can be a pretty serious journey.  I also believe that everyone has a great story (or two) to tell, and I just hope that people are interested in mine!

Guessing at Normal

Guessing at Normal

When I was in high school, one of my closest friends had a mega-crush on Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders. “Isn’t he just to die for?!” she’d say, dramatically swooning. Despite my criticism that this guy was (gasp!) almost 30, she insisted that being married to him one day would be nothing less than perfect. Fast forward to 1994 and my friendship with a co-worker who had actually been married to a major rock icon. “It was complete Hell,” she declared. To come into the living room every morning and discover a bevy of drunken, stoned and semi-naked fans sprawled on the floor struck her as not a particularly healthy environment to be raising their toddler. Without looking back, she packed a suitcase of clothes, a few toys, and her wallet and went in search of a saner lifestyle. Accordingly, the themes of Gail Ward Olmsted’s second novel, Guessing at Normal, immediately resonated as the “star” of a new feature interview for You Read It Here First.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Tell us about your journey from being a professor at a community college in Springfield, MA to becoming a rockin’ published author with two titles now on the market and a third book in the works.

A: When I was halfway through my first novel Jeep Tour, I finally shared with my family and friends that I was writing in my ‘spare time’. My oldest and dearest friend’s response was ‘well, it’s about f*cking time.’ Apparently writing a book had been one of my early life goals. Along the way, I had a wonderful career in the telecommunications industry. After my two children were born, I decided to teach marketing and put my years of real-world experience and MBA to good use. It’s definitely a full time job, but I get summers off and a one month break over the holidays. I love teaching and I love writing. All in all, it makes for a very satisfying life!!

Q: Accomplished writers tend to be voracious readers. Who are some of the authors that occupy a special place in your heart and on your bookshelves?

A: Dennis Lehane is my all time favorite author. His historical fiction trilogy- The Given Day, Live by Night and World Gone By is outstanding. He’s also written gems like Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and Shutter Island. I got to meet him twice and hardly any stalking on my part was required!! I also love Elin Hilderbrand, Stephen King, Claire Cook, Sue Grafton and Harlan Coben. Characters that stay with me long after the story ends…that’s what I look for in a novel.

Q: So tell us the inspiration behind Guessing at Normal.

A: I worked nights at a motel though out my undergrad years. I saw a lot of people come and go from my safe little perch behind the front desk. I just kept imagining this shy young woman watching and waiting for her life to happen. When rocker James Sheridan checks in, she is instantly drawn into his world of non-stop touring, eager groupies and the glare of the media.

Q: It’s a catchy title for sure! How did you come up with it?

A: I read an article years ago about how those who grow up in an alcoholic household have to guess at what ‘normal’ is all about and it stuck with me. With no reliable role model, Jill has to figure things out on her own regarding relationships, parenting, work-life balance and all that. I did too!

Q: The premise of Guessing at Normal revolves around a dreamy poet falling in love with – and yet largely living in the shadows of – a hard partying rock star. Is there a message about female empowerment that you’d like readers to come away with over the course of the story?

A: Jill is a strong and talented woman, but when she first meets James, she is pretty lost. As the story progresses, she learns to come to terms with the challenges of life with a famous partner and finds her own inner artist. She gets really savvy when it comes to negotiating for herself and establishing boundaries. I love Jill!!

Q: Each of the chapter titles is the name of a hit song from the last 20 years. Why did you choose to ‘name’ your chapters in this fashion?

A: We all have our own unique sound track or playlist. When you hear certain songs, you remember things that happened, people that you miss. Jill’s playlist captures all of the love, angst, joy and sorrow she experiences and each chapter title sets the tone for what’s to come: Baby, One More Time ~ I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing ~ Come As You Are ~ I’ll Be Missing You, just to name a few!!

Q: I’m the first to admit that every time I see a plot that utilizes the device of twins, I’m wary of reading it. Nearly every combination imaginable of good twins, bad twins and doppelgangers has manifested in classic literature, movies and television sitcoms – thus making it a challenge to deliver a fresh twist. Since your heroine Jill’s core conflict stems from her relationships with James and his brother Alex, what governed your decision to make them twins rather than having one of them slightly younger or older?

A: One of my dear friends has twin sons, now amazing young adults. I wanted to explore how two people can be very different, despite both their shared upbringing and all the physical similarities visible to the casual observer. I agree with you about the ‘twin thing’ being done to death, but in my mind, it was central in establishing the love triangle of Guessing.

Q: Are you Team James or Team Alex?

A: Team James, all the way!!

Q: There’s no question that what we experience with our families when we’re growing up has an impact on how we’ll view the world – and relationships – as adults. How did you apply this to the individual back stories of Jill, James and Alex?

A: Jill learned to live ‘under the radar’ in order to survive her turbulent family and to express herself through her poems and journal ramblings. She believed that if you don’t expect much, you won’t be disappointed and lacks (initially) the self-confidence needed to get out there and take chances James and Alex grew up in a household with affectionate and loving parents and they also had each other. Both men were confident enough to follow their dreams of becoming successful musicians, but both have their demons as well.

Q: Real life has shown us no shortage of wives and girlfriends that stay in unhealthy relationships (i.e., infidelity, alcoholism, verbal/physical abuse) because they don’t want to give up the glamorous lifestyle their partners represent (i.e., wealth, politics, sports). What do you see as Jill’s justification to stay faithful?

A: Jill is initially drawn to James in part because of the excitement of life on the road and his larger than life sex appeal. But she falls in love with the struggling musician, not the polished superstar. I truly believe she would give up all the money and trappings of fame in order to keep James sober and faithful. In her own words, “James was it for me. I haven’t strayed but it’s only because I don’t want anyone else.  Not in my bed and not in my heart.”

Q: If Hollywood came calling, who would comprise your dream cast for Guessing at Normal and why?

A: I can see Jill being played by Emma Watson, Elizabeth Olsen or Chloe Grace Moretz. All lovely young women with a lot of depth and range. James and Alex would be much tougher to cast. Assuming that one actor could play both roles (a la Hayley Mills/Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap) I could imagine Chace Crawford, Alex Petyfer or Taylor Kitsch playing the twins, assuming they could play guitar and rock out on stage. My inspiration for the Sheridan brothers was Billy Crudup, based on his role in my fave film Almost Famous. But he’s now old enough to play….yes, the twins’ dad!!

Q: If you weren’t already married to the love of your life, which rock star would you most likely choose for a husband?

A: Can I make up a composite rock star?? My ideal would have the moves of Mick Jagger, the voice of Michael Stipe (REM), the soul of Sting and the looks of Jon Bon Jovi. Not sure if that would make for ideal husband material, but can you imagine?

Q: Given the organizational skills you utilized throughout academia, do you start new projects from a formal outline or “wing it” as you go along?

A: I have an overall idea of the characters and their backgrounds, but the way they interact and what happens to them along the way is completely up in the air. Do I sound ridiculous if I admit that I was totally surprised at both the endings of Jeep Tour and Guessing at Normal?

Q: What’s a typical writing day like for you?

A: A ‘perfect’ writing day would be fueled by a trough of coffee, early exercise in the form of water aerobics, minimal distractions, relative solitude and my Mac Book Air on my lap. A ‘typical’ day is full of chores, errands, telemarketer’s phone calls and my family coming and going. Also a trough of coffee, but my computer time is frequently geared to email and social media. I try to seek out pockets of creative time whenever I can.

Q: Do you allow anyone to read your work in progress or make them wait until you’ve typed “The End.”

A:I have beta readers who give me lots of feedback, criticism and direction as I work. I have learned to count on them to keep me on track.

Q: Tell us about your path to publishing and what you learned along the way.

A: I self-published Jeep Tour through CreateSpace last year but I am thrilled to now be part of the Booktrope publishing community. Such a supportive group of talented writers, editors, designer and administrators! The inspiration, support, entertainment, advice and friendship I have received has been phenomenal.

Q: What would people be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I love to travel to other countries, stay active, go to movies and eat out, but I am happiest at home with my family and friends, books, cats and knitting.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: I am working on a sequel to Jeep Tour, which will be based in Ireland. My daughter Hayley and I took a caravan tour there last year and the whole time I kept thinking about my characters and what they would be doing and saying. Oh, and a sexy Irish tour guide!! My characters are in different stages of their lives this time around, but I missed them and love hearing their voices again.

Q: Where can readers learn more about your work?

A: My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/gailolmstedauthor. You can also email me at gwolmsted@yahoo.com or find me on Twitter @gwolmsted

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Thank you for the opportunity to meet your readers, Christina!!

So Much for Buckingham

So Much For Buckingham cover art

Former actor and stage director Anne R. Allen is a wonderfully funny mystery writer who loves to bring some levity to what can be dark, heavy topics. Anne also co-authors a well-written, widely read blog and has worked on joint projects with other writers, so in addition to penning her own books, it’s clear she knows how to operate as a team player. What a pleasure it’s been getting to know Anne and her work, and if you haven’t already read her books, we’re thrilled to introduce her to you.

Interviewed By Debbie A. McClure

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Q         You combine comedy with mystery writing. That can’t be easy, or is it? What is the easiest and/or most difficult aspect to writing this type of book?

A         Actually, what’s hard for me is taking the comedy out of my writing. I find humor in everything. Always have. When I was about seven, I used to put on puppet shows in my back yard. Lots of carnage. Lots of laughs. I was a twisted kid. LOL.

When I try to write heartfelt, deeply emotional stuff, it falls flat. I like fast-paced stories that are fun, but leave you with something to think about later.

Mysteries were an obvious choice for me. I’ve been a mystery fan since I read my first Nancy Drew book, and since then I’ve read all the classics: pretty much everything by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, Chandler, Hammett, etc. I’ve written a few books that aren’t standard whodunnits, but they always have a mystery element. I think I like the structure involved with the mystery genre.

My newest book, So Much for Buckingham, is the 5th in my Camilla Randall series of comedy-mysteries. It deals with some major issues: cyberbullying and character assassination. I also delve into the mystery of whether Richard III really killed the princes in the Tower (I don’t think he did.). Camilla’s best friend gets accused of killing an historical re-enactor dressed as the Duke of Buckingham. The only witness is apparently the ghost of Richard III. I hope people will find it funny and thought provoking.

Book #4, No Place Like Home, deals with homelessness and “bag lady syndrome”—the fear many older women have of ending up homeless.

Because I write funny mysteries, I get to deal with these issues in an unsentimental, detached way that examines all sides and still provides a lot of entertainment.

Q         Many writers today struggle with how to fit into this new e-landscape we’re seeing. What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

A         Number one: let go of the idea that paper books are the only “real” publishing. Most authors now make the bulk of their money from e-books.

Also, accept social media as a necessary evil and then find aspects you can enjoy. For me, it’s blogging. Every author needs to find a place online where they can interact and make friends. That’s where we find readers and mentors—and maybe an agent and publisher.

I’d also add this advice to new writers: don’t believe everything you read online. Lots of the publishing advice on the internet is old, misguided, or just plain wrong. Always consider the source and read widely.

Q         Who has been your greatest life or business mentor, and why?

A         I’m very lucky that I made friends with my Central Coast (CA) neighbor, Catherine Ryan Hyde (author of Pay it Forward and Amazon superstar) early in my career. She has been an inspiration and mentor to me for the last two decades. She’s an amazing human being. I am so blessed that she agreed to co-write a handbook for writers with me: How to be a Writer in the E-Age: A Self-Help Guide.

Her ups and downs over the last twenty years have shown me that there is no certainty in this business, and you need to keep in touch with your readers and stay true to your voice no matter what.

Q         You and I are both representatives of the “Boomer” generation. What advantages would you say we have over our mother’s and grandmother’s generations?

A         Oh, there are so many! Tech alone has totally changed the process. I started writing in the days of typewriter ribbons and carbons, and younger people don’t realize how time consuming all that stuff was. No cut and paste. One typo and you had to start the page over with a carbon.

And now we have email queries. I still have some of those old nesting boxes we used to send out our manuscripts with postage for return. Expensive! Plus all that postage …

And of course there’s the fact women have so much more freedom and respect than they did in the early and mid-20th century. As an unmarried female, I’m not expected to live with other family members as their live-in servant, the way “old maids”, divorcees, and widows did in my grandmother’s day.

Even my mother had to fight hard for respect, even though she had an Ivy League PhD in English literature. People accept me as an authority because of what I say, not my gender. That’s such a huge thing that younger women take for granted.

Q         Writing is far more difficult than most people understand. Was there anything in your past professions as an actress and/or stage director that helped prepare you for this role of writer?

A         Acting and directing are great preparation for a novelist!

As an actor, you learn you always need motivation for whatever action you take on stage. A novelist needs to remember that even the most minor characters need to have a goal and a purpose in every scene.

As a director, I learned what short attention spans audiences have, and how to keep up the pace and never let up. The immediate feedback of rapt attention and laughter vs. coughing, rustling programs, and trips to the restroom lets a director know what works and what doesn’t.

Q         What would you say has been the most difficult personal lesson for you to learn in life?

A         I used to be way too trusting and giving. When I was younger, I always judged other people by myself and assumed everybody had honest, altruistic motives.

I’ve had to learn that accepting people as they present themselves can lead to grief. Learning to recognize narcissists and sociopaths and avoid letting them dominate my life has been a huge (and tough) life lesson for me.

But I’ve had so much fun killing them off in my novels! LOL.

Also, I’ve had to accept that I have more highly tuned senses than most people, so I can easily get over-stimulated—which leads to health problems. So I can’t push myself past my limits with things like NaNoWriMo, big conferences, or marathon book tours. Learning that I’m a “highly sensitive person” has finally allowed me to learn to say no to overload and overwhelming situations.

Q         What do you see as the future for publishing and the new e-technology, and why?

A         Obviously the e-reader has changed the publishing industry in a major way, and the changes keep coming.

I’d like to believe the publishing industry won’t go the way of the music business, where everything is expected to be free and people think artists shouldn’t be paid. Definitely the new paradigm has led to a lower bottom line for most traditional authors.

It has also given rise to the self-publishing movement, which is great for a lot of authors, and I’ve even self-published some of my own books.

But the “Kindle gold rush” is over, and lots of amateur writers who hoped to make millions are giving up now. Kindle Unlimited has cut into the self-publishing bottom line in a major way for a lot of us.

Self-publishers will need to spread a wide net on many platforms and many countries in order to succeed.

Things will never return to business as usual  pre-Kindle days, but we also can’t party like it’s 2009. Self-publishing will continue to be a viable option, but only the savvy and hard-working will make a living at it.

I think bookstores will continue to exist, the way movie theatres do, in spite of Netflix, Hulu and other streaming sites. People like the whole experience of visiting a bookstore.

Q         You’ve collaborated on three projects now, one with author Catherine Ryan Hyde, and two with NYT million-seller author, Ruth Harris. Can you tell us a little about them, and what you feel are the advantages of writers partnering?

A         I have co-written one book with Catherine Ryan Hyde. Ruth and I collaborate on our blog and we put together a two-fer boxed set of two of our novels, CHANEL AND GATSBY, but we didn’t write them together. We just combined her CHANEL CAPER, and my GATSBY GAME in between digital covers.

I’ve also worked with other novelists on some boxed sets and anthologies, when we worked a lot on co-promotion. These were fantastic opportunities to network with other authors in my genre and meet new readers. I think authors should jump on any chance to collaborate with other authors in boxed sets and other co-promotions. It’s a fantastic way to expand your readership.

The book I co-authored with Amazon superstar Catherine Ryan Hyde, How To Be A Writer In The E-Age, came together very easily because it was a nonfiction book and we wrote alternate chapters. We were already good friends, so it was a great experience.

Q       Blogging has become something more writers are discovering, but often struggle with how to create a “voice” or meaningful content. What recommendations would you give to writers just starting out on this blogging path?

A         Actually, I’m writing a book the subject. Because I’ve managed to build a very successful blog, averaging about 90,000 hits a month, with nearly 4000 subscribers, I think I am uniquely qualified to help new authors build a blog.

The most important thing to remember about blogs is that they are part of social media, and social media is, well, social. Authors need to interact and respond to comments, as well as visit and comment on other blogs.

A good way to find your voice is to pay attention to how you comment on other blogs. Use that voice on your own. Don’t preach, brag, or condescend. Just chat. Treat people as if they’re visitors in your living room.

Q         What are your thoughts on the traditional vs self-publishing debate so prevalent in our industry right now?

A         I don’t think all authors are cut out to self-publish. It’s very hard to make the big time if you’re starting to self-publish right now and you’ve never been published before.

The days of breakout Amazon stars like Hugh Howey are pretty much over because Amazon’s algorithms no longer favor indies, and Kindle Unlimited has drastically reduced royalties. It’s also hard to get traction on other retailers like iTunes and GooglePlay if you’re an indie.

But self-publishing is fantastic for established authors who get dropped by their publishers, or who want to supplement their income with novellas and stories between “big books”.

I would recommend that non-tech-savvy writers try for traditional publishing first, especially if they write literary fiction or children’s lit—which sell better in brick and mortar stores.

I don’t know of any literary writer who has an exclusively indie career that’s taken off. I think that’s because literary writers depend on reviews in established print magazines.

And children’s books (except for YA) don’t sell as well in e-books as adult genre fiction does.

But it is true that writers going the traditional route need to be much more wary than in earlier times. They need to find agents or small presses that understand the new paradigm and will allow them to self-publish between books, and won’t offer odious contracts that tie up work for your lifetime plus 70 years.

I’ve been with a series of small presses, some of which were better than others, but they always gave me my rights back with no problem. I also learned a lot and got great editing.

Now I have some books with a small press and some are self-published. That works for me.

I think most authors should plan to self-publish at some point, but I don’t think it’s a good first step for most genres, unless you’re really a savvy marketer with a lot of books in the hopper ready to go.

Romance, mystery, and thriller writers may be an exception. I think they can do well self-publishing right out of the gate, especially if they write fast and have a lot of titles. I know a number who do.

Q         What is it about writing mysteries, especially those with, ahem, older female protagonists that draws you in and holds you?

A         I love writing stories that mix mystery and romantic comedy, especially when the protagonists are older people. In No Place Like Home, 60-yr old former billionaire, Doria, reconnects with her homeless high school sweetheart. That was so much fun to write.

And how often do you read romantic stories about older people? It’s fun to do something different.

Q         What’s next for you, Anne?

A         So Much For Buckingham launched July 8th and is now available.

After that, I’m working on a series of short books for new authors on subjects like blogging, building a platform, writing that first chapter, etc. I’m calling them “two-hour courses” –simple, “just the facts ma’am” type information you might have to plow through a lot of big books or blog archives to get. Plus, I put my own humorous spin on things.

I’ll also be starting my next Camilla book, which has the working title, The Knight of Cups.

Anne blogs with NYT million-seller Ruth Harris at Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris (http://annerallen.blogspot.com/), named to Writer’s Digest for Best 101 Websites for Writers. She is also the author of eight comic novels, including the hilarious Camilla Randall Mysteries. SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM, which launched July 8, 2015, is #5 in the series but can be read as a stand-alone.

For more on Anne, please check out her links below:

Amazon.com author page: http://www.amazon.com/Anne-R.-Allen/e/B005R2SBI4

Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5304269.Anne_R_Allen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annerallen1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annerallen

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/anne-r-allen/10/262/493

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+AnneRAllen/posts

Email: annerallen.allen@gmail.com

A Conversation with Ruth Harris

Ruth Harris Books

Ruth Harris is a million-copy New York Times and Amazon bestselling author and Romantic Times award winner for her critically acclaimed women’s fiction novels. Add that to her co-authoring thriller novels with her husband, Michael Harris, and co-blogging with author, Anne R. Allen. This is one talented, busy lady! Her quick mind and witty repartee are keenly evident in her answers to our questions about writing, life, and trying to find a semblance of balance. Join us in welcoming Ruth to our writing stage!

Interviewed By Debbie A. McClure

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Q         Ruth, every writer dreams of hitting the million-seller list, but what has surprised you the most since you reached that mark?

A         What surprised me (even though I was expecting it) is the fact that nothing really changes. Once you’re past the initial thrill, your life goes on. Meals need to be cooked. Laundry needs to be folded. Books are just as easy/hard to write. You have good hair days and bad hair days. Any writer who thinks hitting a best seller list is going to change his/her life is lost in a fantasy.

Q         Writing is a looong journey fraught with many mountains and valleys. What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

A         Keep it real and get prepared for the long haul.

Q         You also write critically acclaimed thriller novels with your husband, Michael, which is a tremendous accomplishment. What would you say are the benefits and/or downsides to this type of up-close-and-personal collaboration, and why?

A        Well, at least we didn’t kill each other. 😉

Seriously, here’s a look at how it worked (for us) when we had a major disagreement.

http://ruthharrisblog.blogspot.com/2013/08/scene-rescuewhen-collaborators-disagree.html

Q         Who would you say has been your greatest life or career mentor, and why?

A         My father, who LOVED words/language, is remembered by those who knew him (including me) as “always reading.” He was also a news junkie—all traits I inherited from him. My mother was a great story teller. She was an RN who worked in a big city hospital and told sad/funny/outrageous stories of life and death with verve and panache.

Q         Your life goals/dreams have included becoming an ice skater and lawyer, before getting involved in publishing and writing. For the most part, each of these extremely challenging choices focuses on the development of the individual’s skills. What is it about these types of challenges that intrigue and draw you in?

A         They never get boring. Always new ways to fail, new ways to succeed, always something new and different to learn/try/do.

Q         By your own admission you like to write about “strong, savvy, witty women”. What is the message you are trying to convey to women who read your books?

A        Don’t give up! Persistence is the key and don’t feel bad about your neck.

Q        I’m sure you have a very full day, every day. How do you balance life and work to find a reasonably satisfactory compromise?

A         Ha!

Q         It’s interesting to note that you write in several genres. Has it been difficult to find your niche market?

A        Probably. But, as I said above, don’t give up. I’m not.

Q        What has been the most difficult lesson for you to learn, and why?

A        Patience is numero uno!

Q        Could you tell us a little about how you and author Anne R. Allen came to collaborate on a blog?

A        Anne invited me and I said yes. Simple as that.

Q        Like so many other writers, you struggled with blogging and what to blog about. What advice would you give to writers who also struggle with the what, when, where, and why of blogging?

 A        Keep struggling. You’ll think of something! J

Q        What’s next on your agenda, Ruth?

A         I’m writing a series of cozy mysteries set in the small town called New York City. Glam setting. Quirky characters. Friendly natives. Really!